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De Leener: “Representing Audi in Pro Class Always Comes With Pressure”

A closer look at one of WRT’s promising Blancpain GT lineups…

Photo: Fotospeedy

Photo: Fotospeedy

One of the surprise lineups that was revealed at Belgian Audi Club Team WRT’s presentation last Friday was the combination of Peter Kox and Pierre Kaffer with Adrien De Leener.

The trio will compete for the overall honors in the Pro Cup and combines an upcoming talent with the almost endless amount of experience of Kox and Kaffer.

While the latter two are well known in the world of sports cars, De Leener is still a relatively new name to the scene, competing and turning heads with a bright yellow AF Corse Ferrari over the last couple of seasons.

Sharing a 458 with Cedric Sbirrazzuoli in the Blancpain Endurance Pro-Am Cup, the 26-year-old U.S.-based Belgian encountered his share of bad luck last year, but managed to finish the season on a high, narrowly missing out on the win at the Nürburgring finale.

“We came back from 48th overall to 0.3s from a class win and finished on the lead lap,” De Leener told Sportscar365. “This was really a great performance and a position where we feel we should’ve been in all season long; so it’s with this in mind that I want to start the 2016 season.”

Following two seasons in Pro-Am, the Silver-rated driver knows it’s a big step entering the top class in 2016, but one he feels is right for the further development of his career.

“WRT attracted me as team with undisputed success; it reminded me of the family feeling I have with AF Corse, and finally let’s not forget that the new Audi is a phenomenal machine,” he said.

“Going to WRT and representing Audi in the Pro class always comes with some pressure to perform.

“For me it’s important that there’s a challenge, that I’m surrounded by good people and that I’m having fun; if those are happening then I’m sure I can be where I need to be for us to be competitive.”

While De Leener is still young and developing as a driver, Kox and Kaffer bring abundant experience and knowledge to the car, both having been former 24 Hours of Le Mans class winners.

“I’m very lucky to have been given the chance to join two of the top drivers in the world, both have been driving since before I was born,” De Leener said.

“I have known Pierre for a while now when we were both racing with AF Corse in the ELMS in 2014; so it was a nice surprise for us to work together.

“I’m here to be a team player with Pierre, Peter and the rest of the WRT team; I hope to learn as much as possible and return the trust they and my sponsors have put in me.”

The lineup will come together for the first time at a pre-season test at Monza this week, with Kox and De Leener never having met before.

“Vincent Vosse told me about him; I started paying attention to his yellow Ferrari and I noticed they were quite competitive,” Kox told Sportscar365.

“I think it’s a strong lineup. I hope I can help him like I did with other drivers in the past.”

Kox’s WRT signing is his first major international program after parting ways with Reiter Engineering at the beginning of the 2015 season, a partnership spanning 15 years.

“It’s still early to talk about our goals and ambitions, everything is new,” he said.

“First of all we want to be competitive within the team and being the best Audi would be a great thing to accomplish.

“The level in Blancpain Endurance is incredibly high, it’s crucial to avoid mistakes in this series and I’m convinced we have a good chance to be at the front if we do that.”

In addition to his Blancpain Endurance program, De Leener will also enter the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup with AF Corse, sharing a Ferrari with his father, Pierre-Marie De Leener.

“Racing started as a family affair for us,” he said. “Therefore the idea of doing a Pro-Am championship where we can spend time together working on a fun project really makes me happy.

“Having our first outing as an opening to the Le Mans 24 hours is certainly going to be extraordinary

“I want to thank everyone who helped me be here today; especially my Family, Cedric, AF Corse and partners that have been there for me.”

Vincent Wouters (@VinceWouters) is a Belgium-based sports car racing reporter, providing coverage primarily of the Blancpain GT Series.

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